“Is offering chiropractic services though Groupon a good idea?”

I get this question often and so about 6 months ago I decided to run a Groupon ad and see what all the hubbub was about.

I believe I have some pretty good tidbits here so this should be pretty helpful.

First, Groupon marketing style is definitely NOT for every doctor or clinic. However, it might be a great fit for you if your clinic fits into one or more of these criteria:

1)      A new practice that needs to do whatever it can do to get new patients in the door

2)      A practice that has a limited advertising budget

3)      A practice that normally does, or would without hesitation, offer a free or near free service anyway to get someone to come into their clinic and try them out

4)      A clinic that has a lower priced service or services (cash only clinics are the best) such as a discounted adjustment only price, a lower cash price for an introductory massage, etc. (A full-blown insurance practice will have a harder time making a Groupon offer work – but it is possible)

Believe me, from a “self-respect” standpoint I hate discounting services and making less than what I know my services are worth. I get it. However, as a businessman I can also look into the eyes of the patient or the prospective patient and see what they see. After all, I am a consumer too and consumers like deals!

However, the “deal” is not what I am concerned with – getting someone in to try and hopefully like what I do for them is.

My thinking is this. Yes, a service like Groupon is pretty much a rip off for the merchant. Not only do you need to offer something at a deeply discounted price, like 50% off, but then through the Groupon Merchant program (which is an ongoing campaign that you continue until you decide to cancel it) they keep 44% of that. So, if you normally offer a cash adjustment for $25 let’s say, hypothetically, then the offer you might propose through Groupon could be Exam + 2 adjustments for $25. Out of that $25 you will receive $14, or essentially $7 an adjustment. Highway robbery right? Well, hear me out.

When you look at it from the direct income perspective without a doubt it is not a good deal; no one can survive on that. However, we are lucky in that we provide a service that once someone finds a provider they like they will generally keep coming back at whatever frequency, as long as they continue to find value in that relationship. (As a side note, I often wonder how Groupon works for restaurants because Groupon-ers generally pop from one deal to another, rarely ever stopping and asserting allegiance to any one particular restaurant.) Luckily, we are not really in the same boat.

Nonetheless, my further thought on it is this. I would probably on any given day allow any prospective patient to have 1 free or discounted treatment, just for the chance to impress them and hope to get them to become a repeat visitor to my clinic. I don’t outright offer this in any advertisement or anything, but as a matter of give and take I would not have a problem with that. Therefore, by using Groupon I am at least making $14. That’s more than zero! (In addition, in my experience there has only been a 70% redemption rate, bringing that $14 figure up just a bit).

However, none of that really matters! Here is the REAL benefit of using Groupon. You get exposed to potential patients that you most likely would never have access to, in more ways than one. Groupon is obviously huge, and they know how to make money. Not only does every person in America know who Groupon is, I bet 80% of people have used them in one way or another. In fact, when someone comes into my clinic with a Groupon, they usually started there in the Groupon app or website in the search of a chiropractor. Meaning, they wanted to see a chiropractor so they went to Groupon and looked through the deals. OR, and this is a BIG OR, they were exposed to your offer through Groupon’s extensive multi-media advertising platform.

In my experience my deal is most often seen through their email advertising (who doesn’t open those to see what great deals are being offered – and as a user I see my offer at the top of the emails often) and ever more valuable is they have an aggressive PPC (pay per click) and re-targeting campaign. Groupon is literally spending money to get you exposure. Have you ever done PPC for your clinic? If so then you know you could easily be spending from $2-$10 just for a click to your site! Groupon pays for that!

When I do a search for a chiropractor in my area (and I am not doing a PPC campaign presently) what pops up? My Groupon ad. I actually stopped my PPC campaign because why spend money to compete with myself when they will do it for me, at really no cost to me.

That is the big benefit of the Groupon merchant program as I see it. Again, it’s not for everyone and if you have an issue with the impact you believe it has on the value of our profession or your clinic then it is definitely not for you. However, for some of you it can be an excellent source of exposure with zero outflow or financial risk. To me that makes it worth it.

Incidentally, in 6 months I have averaged about 10-12 new patients per month just from Groupon. As of now about 60% have purchased services beyond the Groupon special (and I am confident that number will rise over time). It’s also not uncommon for someone to call or stop in asking about the Groupon special – yet they haven’t purchased it. In that case it’s easy to honor the special without going through Groupon, thereby only losing 50% of your normal fee yet having been marketed by Groupon at no cost to you.

Hope that helps! Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.

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